Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Passing Out in Holy Amritsar

After disembarking from our first sleepless overnight train, we boarded the free shuttle bus from the station to town. In typical Indian style, it was so packed that we couldn’t move and not another person could’ve fitted through the doors, which did in fact leave quite a crowd still lingering for the next bus. We greatfully disembarked the sardine bus in town and started to search for a hotel, but as it was only just passed 6 am most places still had closed doors. Unbelievably it took us until 8.30 to finally choose a hotel as most were either grossly overpriced or just plain gross. In the end our choice was ‘Hotel Holy City’ which was appropriate given that we were in Amritsar.

We grabbed a quick breakfast and then headed back on an equally crowded shuttle bus to the train station - as since we had previously been unsuccessful with buying tickets for the following evening to Agra we needed to try again. The queues were impossibly long, including the ‘Elderly and Women’ queue, but at least the latter was moving so Sarah joined it. The 'queue' was a continual struggle as the mass of women were constantly pushing and shoving and trying to shove their reservation forms through the small slot at the ticket window, even if they weren’t the next in the surging line.

Sarah finally made it to the window and attempted to buy two tickets to Agra, but was told that there were none available and no ‘Foreign Quota’ tickets left either. The only thing she’d sell were two VIP tickets which were 300INR extra each. Since we had no options left we tried to buy them, but even though we had our passports with us they insisted on also needing a photocopy which we didn’t have with us and of course they were unable to photocopy them for us, even when we offered to pay.

Finally she agreed that we could buy the tickets and she’d hold onto them until we returned with our photocopied passports to claim them. Sarah was on the verge of buying them when the room started to swim  and turn black and her ears started buzzing and down she went – cushioned by the bosom’s of the pressing women. The kind ticket lady offered a glass of water that wasn’t really fit for a sensitive western stomach while Dave picked Sarah up and carried her out of the throng to the edge of the building, sat her down and quickly negotiated a tuktuk back to town.

The fresh air on ride revived Sarah somewhat, enough that she was able to walk with Dave’s help back to the hotel from the wrong place where the tuktuk stopped. The hidden blessing in this was we walked past the illusive ‘Temple Ticket Office’ that we’d wasted an hour looking for previously. We were thankful that this might mean no more trips out to the train station to buy our tickets. 

Sarah went straight to bed while Dave found some food that he made Sarah force down before she fell asleep, only to awaken later with a high fever that took until the afternoon to break. Dave went out again to buy medicine and a thermometer – although he came back with a mercury one that Sarah refused to use and more importantly did not think it was safe to carry around. Dave went back to the pharmacy and tried to exchange it – however the pharmacist refused until another Indian costumer told the pharmacist it was illegal to sell mercury thermometers, and thankfully then he exchanged it for a modern day electric one that only read Fahrenheit. 

Sarah’s temp was 38.8 °C but she had already stopped shivering so we figured she was improving. We ventured out later for dinner but that was about all Sarah was capable of before she needed to go back to the hotel to sleep which gave Dave plenty of time to catch up on editing photos and also rest as the heat was draining us both.

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